Weekly Update: NASA Features Pan Research, Panda Pop Growing, Bennear Joins NAS Committee and more ...

September 28, 2017

Watch: This new NASA video showcases the work of the Nicholas School's Bill Pan and other researchers who are using satellites to predict malaria outbreaks.

Hi everyone,

We have a bunch of faculty and staff accomplishments to celebrate this week, leading off with a big international award for Professor Erika Weinthal. More on that, and a host of other items, below.


  1. Erika Weinthal was honored at an international conference in Milan, Italy, yesterday for her pioneering scholarship on global environmental politics and the role water resources can play in post-conflict peacebuilding. She received the inaugural “Women Peacebuilders for Water” Award from the Fondazione Milano per Expo 2015, an Italian foundation dedicated to promoting sustainable development and resource management in developing countries worldwide. It’s a huge honor – and richly deserved. Kudos, Erika! Read about it here.
  2. An international research initiative led by Bill Pan is using data from Earth-observing NASA satellites to identify and track environmental conditions that typically foreshadow the onset of malaria outbreaks in the Amazon. By tracking precipitation, air temperature, soil moisture and vegetation data - coupled with data on the locations of human activities such as road building or deforestation that can inadvertently create conditions favorable to mosquito breeding – Bill and his colleagues hope to develop a system that can predict malaria outbreaks at a household level months in advance to help prevent them. 
  3. Lori Bennear has been appointed to serve on a new National Academy of Science committee tasked with reviewing and updating the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s Offshore Oil and Gas Operations Inspection Program. With mounting concerns about the environmental impacts of offshore oil and gas development, I don’t need to tell you how important this committee’s work will be, or how fortunate we are that Lori has agreed to serve on it. 
  4. Stuart Pimm is an author of a new study showing that while populations of giant pandas have increased recently, their habitat now covers less area and is more fragmented than when they were first listed as an endangered species in 1988. Stuart and his Chinese and U.S. colleagues used geospatial technologies and remote sensing to map the recent land-use changes that are to blame for this fragmentation. Chief among the culprits is road building. You can read more about the study and watch a video of Stuart as he explains the importance of the findings here
  5. Mark your calendars for Friday at 11:45 when we’ll be holding two lunchtime brainstorming sessions to gain community-wide input for our new Global Connections Initiative. The initiative aims to foster greater social and academic interactions between our U.S. and international students. We want to hear your ideas about how we can make that happen. The sessions will be from 11:45 to 1 p.m. in the Environment Hall Boardroom in Durham and the Bookhout Conference Room in Beaufort. We’ll provide Chinese food; you bring a beverage and some great suggestions. RSVP here.                                                                                                    
  6. Fifteen MEM students will travel to Washington, D.C., this weekend with the Duke Water Network to learn more about water science, management and policy in our nation’s capital. It’s a great opportunity for them to gain a behind-the-scenes look at how environmental policy and management plays out at the federal level, and to meet with potential employers. 
  7. This Friday, we’ll be hosting 25 visiting high school seniors from Colorado to give them a taste of the Nic School student experience and introduce them to possible careers in the environmental field. Their visit is being coordinated through the Upward Bound program, which focuses on mentoring underrepresented minority students and preparing them for college and beyond. Let’s make them feel welcome at our school. 
  8. Marty Smith and Brad Murray are co-investigators on a new $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to research the future of coastal development in the face of rising sea levels, stronger storms and other changes related to global warming. Their multidisciplinary team, which includes researchers from seven universities, will explore how the complex interplay of natural forces, social attitudes, scientific knowledge, economic consideration and public policies could shape future real estate markets in two computer-modeled communities similar to those found along East Coast and Gulf Coast barrier islands. 
  9. Please join me in congratulating Nic School staff members Glenda Lee and Sean Rowe, who have both recently been promoted. Glenda has been promoted to Director of Alumni Relations and Sean has been promoted to Public Relations Specialist. In case you’re not familiar with their work, Glenda directs alumni engagement programs such as our Go Grow Give campaign, and Sean produces multimedia content for our website and coordinates marketing and analytics for our digital assets. These promotions recognize the increased responsibilities required for Glenda and Sean to perform their respective duties. 

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